How to Pick the Right Speargun Length For You
There is no simple answer for the right speargun length you need. There are several factors that you will need to answer for the type of diving you are doing. By answering these questions you can narrow down the right length speargun you will need for the diving you will be doing. Here are some of the important considerations when picking your speargun length.
The biggest factor in picking your speargun should be normal visibility in your dive location. Visibility is so important because it will impact fish behavior dramatically. The further away the fish can see a diver the longer the shot that diver may have to take. That means in clean water you will likely need a longer speargun to get the longer ranges. The opposite side of the spectrum is still an important to consider. In bad visibility you will want a short, maneuverable speargun to get the spear pointed at the fish quickly. Even in bad visibility it is important to be able to see the end of your speargun, the fish, and what is beyond the fish. Make sure you are practicing safe spearfishing and always know what is beyond your target.
After normal visibility conditions you need to consider the speargun’s maneuverability. Other than the physical designs of the speargun, the length is going to impact how well the speargun tracks through the water. If you are hunting reef fish that dart into hole, ledges, or caves that could mean the right length speargun for you is going to be a short gun. You may not need to take a long shot, but you will need to get your speargun pointed at a fish in a hole quickly before it hides even deeper in the rocks. Pelagic species, that stay in the water column, may give you a longer opportunity to get the speargun pointed at the fish, so maneuverability may be less important.
The Right Speargun Length for the Fish You Are Targeting
The last big consideration comes down to the type of fish you are targeting. Some species just stay far away from divers. So you need a long, powerful speargun to get the range needed to hunt them. Wahoo, Tuna, and Billfish are all great examples of fish that usually require longer shots. There are always stories about divers who were lucky enough to get point blank shots, but overall these fish keep their distance. That means long, bulk spearguns with four to six bands. That size gun loses maneuverability, and really can’t be used in limited visibility, but it is a specialized speargun for a specific purpose. Most reef species don’t need as much speargun, but it can come down to your hunting technique as well.
Picking the Right Speargun Length – What it All Means To You
You should get a speargun that has a similar effective range to the visibility where you dive. The effective range of a speargun is generally, about two to three times the length of the speargun’s band stretch distance. Notable exceptions come into play if you are targeting reef species in holes. Then you just want a speargun that has enough power to put the spear shaft through the fish. The challenge of picking the right speargun comes down to the problem that there is no single speargun that meets all of a diver’s needs. As time goes by you will collect all the spearguns you need for the types of diving you do.
Properly Loading Your Speargun – Band Size, Load Assists, and More
Properly loading your speargun can be a challenge. There are a couple techniques and tools that make loading a speargun easier. There are also different material option of bands that can make loading your speargun bands easier or harder.
Proper Loading Technique
Most spearguns can be loaded using proper technique rather than brute force. Trying to load a speargun through brute force alone can result in some challenges. Loading a speargun requires a few muscle groups that are not the most common exercises in normal life. See this video on proper speargun loading technique for rear handle spearguns.
The band length is the biggest factor that makes a band difficult to pull back. That being said, your spear shaft won’t hit the fish hard enough to penetrate without the right length spear shaft. The optimal stretch for a speargun band is 350% stretch. The formula to find the length your bands should be is:
This formula applies to all the different diameter bands. Making your bands stretch more than 350% doesn’t dramatically increase the power you are adding to your spear shaft. Making longer bands reduces the power to the spear shaft. If you reduce the power of your bands too much you won’t be able to shoot through your fish.
There are several thickness band options available for your speargun. The thickness of the bands determines the amount of stored energy in the bands. 9/16” (14mm) bands store approximately 90 pounds of force per band. 5/8” (16mm) bands store about 110 pounds of force per band. 3/4” (19mm) bands store 130 pounds of force per band. The challenge with bigger bands is it takes that much force per band to load them. Some divers prefer to have a larger number of easier bands, other divers prefer one hard to pull band. Past injuries or surgeries may impact your choice on bands. Make sure your speargun is designed to accept your band diameter of choice before purchasing. Some muzzles may not be able to accept some larger band diameters.
Small ID Bands
In the past few years Small Internal Diameter (ID) bands have increased in popularity. The idea behind them is the bands have more rubber inside them, which adds more stored energy to smaller bands. This makes the bands a little harder to load than the standard ID bands. Many people feel their spear accelerates faster as a result of the smaller diameter bands.
Load assists are particularly helpful if you have had some type of shoulder injury or surgery. They are also beneficial for loading very long spearguns or roller spearguns. The idea is you can hook the load assist to the band’s wishbone and load the load assist to the spear notch. Then you can finish the band load with the band already partially loaded.
Some spear shafts can be customized to have additional loading tabs added further forward on the spear shaft. These are supposed to work in a similar way to the load assists, in that you partially load your speargun in order to get into a better position to complete the load. They are frequently called ‘cheater tabs’ because they make it easier to load the speargun. The term is is just so guys can give each other a hard time. In reality they help folks that have had injuries or surgeries that would otherwise keep them from properly loading their spearguns.
Mentoring New Freedivers – Why Its Important to Bring New People Into The Sport
Freediving and spearfishing are rapidly growing in popularity all over the world. It makes sense, these sports are too much fun not to participate in. The simplicity of holding your breath and harvesting your own food is an easily appreciated activity. With all that being said, there are defiantly some learning curves to freediving and spearfishing. Mentoring new freedivers is an integral part of growing and improving the sport. Finding a good mentor or instructor makes a huge difference to the safety and level of enjoyment from diving.
Why We Need To Grow The Sport
With the sport growing the way it is, we need to make sure it grows the way we want it to. It is easy for experienced divers to brush off new divers as a nuisance. In some respects they are. But they are the future of the sport, and if we neglect new divers they won’t learn the etiquette that we hope to see in every diver. Keep that in mind next time you meet someone starting out and think about showing them the ropes.
How To Approach Mentors
If you are new to freediving or spearfishing there are definitely a couple ways to meet new people that can help you learn what you are doing. The first path into the sport is to take a freediving course. Not all instructors are made equally, so ask questions and get a feel for the instructor before signing up. The most important in a good instructor is their ability to convey information in an accessible way. You should also seek out a safety conscious instructor. Beyond that, just try and find an instructor with a style and attitude that meets your comfort.
Clubs and Organizations
An instructor can also be a wealth of knowledge about resources and groups in your area for free divers. Clubs and training groups are one of the greatest methods of finding a good group of divers and potential mentors. The best practice for people getting into the sport is to accept that you have a lot to learn. That means you shouldn’t act like you know everything about the sport because you took on two or three day freediving course last weekend. There are aspects of diving that will never be covered in a course. Be willing to learn from other divers, but always remember the safety aspects of your free dive course in everything you do.
Dive Shops and Charters
Dive shops and the dive trips they host are another great way to to meet new divers. The charter boats themselves also offer a great opportunity to meet other divers and potential mentors, especially on split trips. Many shops and charters offer the opportunity to take courses or guide you on a trip. Additionally, dive shops tend to attract other divers. You can often find people willing to assist you in these locations.
The Mentor and Mentee Relationship
Mentor and Mentee relationships tend to develop organically. It would be a little awkward if a new diver just walked up to someone with more experience and just said “Hey, would you like to be my mentor?”. Typically these things start with a few questions about how to do something better, or tips on improvement. Be open to critique and suggestions.
How To Mentor
Once you develop some experience it is easy to get in your own rhythm with your group of divers. Remember you didn’t get to that point by yourself. When a newer diver approaches you don’t be a jerk. It sounds simple, but just go onto any forum on the internet and see the toxic environment that tends to develop around people asking questions because they are new. Just be a decent person and help new people out form time to time. I’m not saying you need to take every new person that asks out on your boat to mess up your day. There definitely needs to be a balance. Just remember that we do want the sport to grow. With that said, the best way to get it to grow the way we want is to help guide it in that direction. Mentoring new freedivers can end up being one of the more rewarding experiences within the sport.
Be Courteous to One Another
The short version is to just be nice to one another. Whether you are starting out or have several decades of experience just try to be helpful to one another.
Speargun Basics – What You Need To Know
If you are just getting into spearfishing you may have a few questions about spearguns and how they work. Fortunately, they are no overly complicated tools. There will be variations in different manufacturers designs, but the basic construction is pretty similar. We will cover some speargun basics and go over some of the common questions we get from people just getting into spearfishing.
What is a Speargun?
A speargun is any tube shaped item that holds a spear shaft which is propelled by stored energy that is released with some type of trigger mechanism for use underwater. That stored energy can be from pulling back bands that connect to the spear shaft through notches bin the spear shaft. The energy can also be stored through pushing a spear shaft through a pneumatic tube into a trigger mechanism. They work by storing this energy safely and by being able to release the spear shaft to be shot at a fish at the right time.
Are Spearguns Illegal?
Every country has their own laws. Within some countries different regions may have even more specific restrictions. The short answer is that you need to check in your area to find out if spearguns are legal. Most states in the United States are open to spearfishing. The Bahamas and Bermuda have outlawed them, but allow pole spears and Hawaiian slings.
Is a Speargun a Firearm?
No! Spearguns are powered by latex rubber bands or pressurized air. Firearms are powered by an explosion of a propellent that causes large amounts of pressure in a restricted space facing a small projectile through a narrow space. Don’t go through your local airport shouting that you have a speargun. The general public is not overly aware of the differences. So while traveling it may be best to refer to your gear as “fishing equipment”, unless you feel like filling out a lot of paperwork and getting some interesting questions from security and the airline. Many people ask about a spear rifle. This is a confused term. Rifles are firearms with a rifled barrel designed to spin the bullet as it passes through a barrel to increase accuracy at range. The short ranges of spearguns makes rifling is unnecessary.
Can You Use One Out Of The Water?
No! Can you physically load a speargun and fire it out of the water? You can if you are an idiot. Spearguns are designed to be used in an environment with water resistance. That water resistance helps with recoil and reduces the range of the spear shaft. That water resistance also helps by increasing the spear shaft’s accuracy. DO NOT FIRE SPEARGUNS OUT OF THE WATER. For more information on speargun safety please read this blog post.
What is The Best All Around Length?
There is no perfect length for all diving everything. It is a continuous effort that many builders have been trying to create from the beginning. There are good general lengths that cover most diving. As you get further into spearfishing you will find that the right tool for the job makes a big difference. You will end up collecting quite a few as time goes by. For more information on picking the right gun length for your diving check out this post as a speargun length guide.
What is The Difference Between a Speargun and a Harpoon Gun?
We already went over what a speargun is earlier. You mount Harpoon Guns to the deck of a boat. It fires a harpoon in order to retrieve large fish, like Tunas and Billfish. Some of the biggest differences are that harpoon guns are used from out of the water shoot into the water. You shoot spearguns in the water at fish that are also in the water.
There are a wide range of prices on the market. You get what you pay for with spearguns. There are plenty of inexpensive ones on the market, but make sure you you are getting a quality gun for the price. A cheap speargun may end up costing you more long term that the right purchase from the start. The cost of regular repair and maintenance can quickly get you ‘cheap’ speargun over the price of a quality Rob Allen or Amero very quickly. Most spearguns will cost between $260 up to well over $1000 depending on the type and quality you are looking for. There are even some spearguns on the market for well over $3000.
What is a Speargun’s Range?
Band stretch distance determines range. Most will shoot between two to three times the distance from the back of the band slot to the notch where the bands connect to the spear shaft. Roller guns are the exception to this rule, because the starting point of the bands is different. For more information check out this post on how roller spearguns work. Range is important for some spearfishing, but it shouldn’t b e the only thing you look for in your speargun. That means you need enough power to send the spear shaft through the fish. You also have to make sure you don’t overpower your speargun. Overpowering the speargun will c use major inaccuracy in your shots.
Speargun Safety – The Basics
Why Speargun Safety is Important
Spearfishing is one of the most fun sports you can participate in. That being said, there are risks involved. Speargun safety is one of the most fundamental aspects of preventing spearfishing accidents. New divers always think that their greatest risks are from sharks or other environmental issues, but the reality is your greatest risks come from other divers. Every few months there seems to be a diver that is shot with their own or another divers speargun. There are a couple rules you can impose on yourself that will prevent any problems with this.
The Basic Rules
- Never load a speargun out of the water
- Do not fire a speargun out of water
- Never point a speargun at anything you do not want to kill
- Keep you finger away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- Know what is behind your target
- Ensure there are not tangles in your rigging
- Never rely on the speargun safety
A Better Breakdown
Here is a more in depth breakdown of why these rules are so important.
Use Out of The Water
Never load or fire a speargun out of the water. Spearguns need water resistance to function properly. The amount of force stored in the bands is capable of shooting a spear up to 20 feet underwater. These same bands out of the water can launch these spears over 200 feet. There is no safe way to control that kind of shot.
Speargun Safety Compared to Firearm Safety
Most of the other rules are taken from basic firearm safety, but the same rules apply with spearguns. It stands to reason that you can’t shoot your buddy if you never point your speargun at them. That means never pulling the trigger of a fish directly between you and your buddy. Accidentally hitting you dive buddy with a spear is much less likely if you keep your finger away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot. That being said, The trigger can get caught on tons of things in the underwater environment. Be aware of your surroundings and maintain control of your speargun, especially if it is loaded.
Speargun Specific Considerations
Tangles in the shooting lines and bands are a major concern. This can be catastrophic because of the amount of force involved and extremely dangerous to all the divers in the vicinity. Always load your speargun properly.
The last key element is to never rely on your spearguns safety. Speargun safeties are notorious for failing. Many custom gun builder do not even bother installing them into their spearguns because they can be so frustrating.
Riffe Speargun Series – A Look at Riffe Speargun Models
Riffe has been on the forefront of spearfishing since the 1970s. With decades of consistently creating quality spearfishing equipment it only makes sense that their spearguns are held in high regard. We will be taking a look at some of their more popular models of today.
The Riffe Euro Speargun is easily one of the best freediving wooden spearguns on the market. The Euro is streamline and easy to track through the water. This speargun is powered by two 5/8” (16mm) power bands that can be easily taken on or off the speargun. This wooden speargun has the power to make accurate shots at a great range. Riffe has set the trigger for this speargun near the back of the speargun to allow for maximum power for the length of the speargun. The rear handle design ensures easy point and shoot capability. Overall, this wooden speargun is hard to beat, with many models coming in both open and enclosed track options.
The Riffe Competitor Speargun series is a classic. This particular design has been around, in some form, for around 20 years. The reason it has been around so long is simple: it works! With a narrow design it is easy to see and track your fish as you are looking down the speargun. This speargun is easily hip loaded, as the trigger is located further forward on the stock. With a traditional band slot it is easy to install pre-made power bands on this mahogany wooden speargun.
The Riffe Marauder Speargun is a great design for some bluewater spearfishing. The laminated mahogany stock helps prevent warping. The cuttlefish body design adds mass, while still allowing the speargun to track easily through the water. The added mass reduces recoil, allowing for more power on the speargun. The added power translates to more penetration through fish from further away. This makes the Riffe Marauder a tempting option. Available in three lengths, there are plenty of options for success.
Freedive Training: Cardio, Intervals, CO2 and O2 Tables
Freevive training can be a complicated process for many people. Just about every dive will agree that the best way to train for breeding is to freedive. Nothing beats in water experience. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or access to be in the water as much as we would like. Fortunately there are several ways to train for freedivng outside of being in the water. It should be noted that these training techniques try to help the same muscle groups and mental skills that are helpful in freediving. Remember, never train freediving in the water without a dive buddy that understands rescue protocol.
Cardio: How Endurance Improves Freediving
There are a lucky group of people that actually enjoy cardio. Those people are widely considered crazy by the rest of us. The rest of us just need to grin and bear it when we are doing cardio and recognize that doing some of it will help us enjoy other hobbies. The biggest benefit of cardio in freediving is building up endurance. There is nothing worse than getting in the water in a strong current and struggling to be able to dive because you are running out of energy on the surface. Implementing a regular cardio routine has untold benefits to allowing you to enjoy a long day in the water. Some great activities that help also build up you leg muscles are swimming, biking, and of course running.
Intervals: Improving Recovery and Anaerobic Exercise
If there is anything more unpleasant to train than cardio it has to be intervals. It takes the unpleasantness of cardio and magnifies it with the feeling like your heart and lungs are going to explode. For those of you unfamiliar with Interval workouts the more familiar term is sprints. Sprints can be applied to any of the previously mentioned cardio exercises. Basically just push yourself further than you can sustain.
If you are running you can do distance intervals or timing intervals. Runt to a light pole, walk to the next light pole, or run 30 seconds then walk 60 seconds. Swimming can be swimming hard for a lap, recover for a lap. This process is designed to spike your heart rate and helps train your body to recover from anaerobic exercises quicker. Anaerobic exercise is any exercise that uses more oxygen than your body can replace in the amount of time the exercise continues. You can understand how this type of exercise could be helpful I training for freediving.
CO2 and O2 Tables: Training the Mind to Accept Discomfort
CO2 and O2 tables are useful tool in getting your body used to holding its breath. They eat h work in different ways to improve this goal.
CO2 tables focus on getting a build up of CO2 in your body. ?This helps your body become accustomed to that discomfort that makes your mind think you need to breathe. It is not a lack of oxygen that makes you think you need to breathe, but the build up of CO2. By regularly exposing your body to increased levels of CO2 it pushes your mental limits of what your body considers normal. The method of doing this is typically to hold your breath for a consistent amount of time and to reduce the amount of time you breath up before holding your breath.
O2 Tables work on a similar principle but in an inverse way. O2 tables allow for a more gradual buildup of CO2 by having a consistent breath up and holding your breath for longer and longer intervals.
Freediving Safety – The Buddy System and Spearfishing
In all underwater sport it is a safe practice to participate in the buddy system. Two or three divers helping one another is significantly safer than an individual diving on their own. The buddy system improves dramatically when you communicate expectations of buddies in the water ahead of time. If done correctly, the buddy system can even help your group land more fish.
How the Buddy System Saves Lives
The most important reason to use the Buddy System is the fact that is can and does save lives. The greatest risk that free divers and spearos face while diving is shallow water blackout. If you are unfamiliar with this term you should take a freediving course to educate yourself on the risks of freediving. Almost all shallow water blackout incidents occur at the surface or within 15 feet of the surface. That means an attentive dive buddy can prevent almost all potential shallow water blackout fatalities if they know how to act in this emergency. Again, if you haven’t already you should take a freediving course to learn the skills necessary to save yourself or your dive buddy.
Implementing and Improving It
Any group of friends is going to have different strategies in their given dive location. There can be mixed skill levels, or separate goals in any given group. Communicating expectations before you get in the water is a valuable practice.
Two Up, One Down Method
Some groups prefer to use the Two Up, One Down method in place which allows someone to always be underwater. As the name implies, you have one diver conducting a dive. The second person is acting as the dive safety and doing their breath-up. The third diver is conducting their recovery after their last dive. This is a good system to implement in a group of newer divers, or if the group is diving in deeper water where you may need longer recovery times.
One Up, One Down Method
The One Up, One Down Method is also popular. It allows for a smaller amount of diver pressure in the chosen dive site. This does require both divers to act as more attentive dive buddies and to multi-task a little more. To do this method properly the safety needs to stay at the surface with the recovering diver for a minimum of 30 seconds to ensure the diver does not blackout. This is a better practice for shallower water, where you have shorter recovery times. A proper timing device makes this method even safer. It is helpful to have some type of dive computer to make sure you and your dive buddy are doing proper recoveries.
How the Buddy System Helps Land More Fish
If you thin, about spearfishing as a group activity, as you should, working as a team helps land more fish. There are countless examples of how working as a team does this, but we will touch on a few common situations.
It is very common for a diver to take a long shot on a fish at the end of their dive. It is not always the best practice, but sometimes it’s the shot you get. These shots often turn into a fish that goes into a rock, or ledge, or inside whatever structure is nearby. If you are diving by yourself (Don’t do that) you have to come to the surface and do a long breath-up before you can safely dive back down. In that time the fish can work its way off the spear shaft or get taxed by another creature. If your dive buddy is right there on the surface they can help pull your fish out of the rock for you. You owe them one hell of a thank you afterwards because they just used one of their dives to help you, but that’s what good buddies do.
Sharks and Other Creatures
If you take the previous situation but you add sharks or other animals that want to take your fish you can have some challenges if you are by yourself. A good buddy can help fend off these tax collectors by putting themselves between the animal and your fish. Typically acting aggressively towards these animals helps keep them at bay. It is far from a guarantee, but it does usually help land the fish. There is significant risk involved in putting yourself between a predator and a potential food source. This is not a paragraph recommending this method, it is just explaining something some divers do.
The Importance of Not Drowning – How to Properly Weight Yourself
The first thing you should consider is to take a freediving course from a qualified instructor. This article does not in any way, shape, or form replace proper training. The article is simply going over some basic weighting principles to help increase safe freediving and spearfishing practices. This article isn’t designed to teach you every element of how or why you need to be properly weighted. It is just a quick article about the mechanics of being properly weighted.
Why Proper Weighting is Important
The reason you should always be properly weighted while freediving is the risk of shallow water blackout. Blackouts are one of the biggest risks we face as freedivers. This article is not going to go into the details of how, why or what happen during a shallow water blackout in great detail. That being said, the result of a shallow water blackout is temporary unconsciousness and a passive exhale (loss of control of the airway) at the surface. The combination of these two things put a diver at great risk of drowning. It also allows us to plan on how to weight ourselves on the surface. We want to float at the surface after a passive exhale.
How to Determine How Much Weight You Need
The best way to determine the amount of weight you need on your weight belt is to start small. Every diver is different and the amount of weight you need is different between salt and fresh water. The thickness of your wetsuit is also a factor in how buoyant you are. That means a thicker suit will need more lead weight to ballast a diver. It is a good idea to have a few solid weights and possibly a few quick weights to allow for quick adjustments in the water.
At the surface start with a few pound of lead on your belt and do a passive exhale. A passive exhale is just a light exhale, like a normal breath. Don’t try and blow all the air out of your lungs and see if you sink. Without kicking your fins you should be floating roughly at eye level, or all least that is your goal for proper weighting. You will likely need to make small adjustments to get to this point in the water.
How To Double Check
Another way to confirm you have the correct amount of lead weight on your dive belt is to dive down to 30 feet and see if you are neutrally buoyant. If you are sinking like a stone at that depth you are probably over weighted. If you find yourself floating up to the surface without kicking you might need to add a few more pounds of lead.
Again, if you need this article you should reach out to a qualified freedive instructor and get certified to freedive. The information in a freedive course will help make you a better and safer diver, not to mention a better dive buddy.
Blister Prevention on Multi-Day Dive Trips
Blisters while freediving are often not a consideration for most divers, until they become a big problem. It makes sense that putting large amounts of force from kicking on our feet can cause blisters. The long fins that Freedivers use can compound this problem. There are a couple important ways to ensure blister prevention while freediving, and we will be going over some of those strategies in this post.
Booties – Blister Prevention while Freediving
Dive booties help prevent blisters and fill in your freedive fin foot pocket. They can also help on long walks to and from your dive site. Booties prevent blisters by adding an extra padded, protective layer, between your foot and the sometimes abrasive rubber of a foot pocket. A good neoprene bootie will help keep your feet safe from the environment around you. That can be anything from an underwater rock, to shells walking along the beach. Booties are the single biggest piece of equipment that can prevent blisters from diving. Make sure to always have a spare pair of dive booties in your dive bag to prevent skipping a day of diving, or ruining your week or month. If you have particularly sensitive feet you should consider wearing a thicker neoprene bootie.
Properly Fitting Foot Pockets
After dive booties, properly fitting foot pockets are critical to blister prevention. Foot pockets for freedive fins should be like an extension of your foot. They should be snug, but not tight. If you foot can easily move back and forward in the foot pocket they are too loose and can likely cause blisters. Make sure to get a comfortable pair of foot pockets that fit your foot well. If you are having a hard time finding a good pair of foot pockets that fit you, another good option is to use a pair of Fin Keepers to hold the foot pocket to your foot better.
Know When to Get Out of The Water
It is amazing how quickly your feet can go from completely normal to looking like ground beef. If you are on a multi day trip it ic critical to make sure you are taking care of yourself. That means staying hydrated, cleaning your wetsuit, and taking care of your feet! One of the toughest calls you can make on a trip is to know when to get out of the water. If you forgot your booties up in your room, just stay out of the water for a day. It is brutal to miss a day, but it beats missing the rest of the trip and having to heal up for over a month with major foot injuries. We speak from experience when we say it is not fun to spend more time than necessary in 3rd world clinics trying to pick up antibiotics for blood poisoning.